Simple and satisfying, these mini maple cakes are studded with walnuts and crowned with a gentle maple glaze.
We're having a late Spring here in Vermont, which is bad news for gardeners but great news for the maple syrup producers. There is still deep snow in the woods, and each night the temperature dips below freezing. This causes the maple trees to pump sap upwards... and into collection buckets, tap lines, big poly containers in pickup trucks, and ultimately into syrup evaporators.
So it's a bumper crop of syrup, while I'd been afraid there wouldn't be any at all. According to Burr Morse, this year's syrup is actually 12% sweeter than usual! Naturally, I've been buying and sampling a goodly amount, just to keep you all informed. I haven't bought any Grade B yet, which comes at the end of the season; I suppose I'll have to go back to Wyman's sugarhouse and see what's cooking.
This recipe uses maple syrup in both the cake and the glaze. I used walnuts because they make a nice base flavor in the cake. Since Heidi recently purchased a mini-kugelhopf mold from Alsace, plus two individual-size kugelhopf pans, I scaled the recipe accordingly. I like the bundt-style pans, because the glaze can accumulate in the dimple on top. You should use whatever small cake pans or mini-anything pans that you have available. Be creative and think of new uses for your molds and pans!
I also have a new, old Sunbeam Mixmaster, circa 1959, seeing its trial run with these cakes. It performed handsomely, and reminded me of times watching my mom crank up the speed to number 8 on the "Mix-Finder Dial". I love how the speed increments by just turning the dial on the end. That's so old-school! And the design has that Flash Gordon feel, which influenced industrial design through the forties and fifties. Note the fins:
This Mixmaster has 10 speeds. Picture the invention process: Turning it just on, "Bmmmm".. Speed 1! Quick, what could you do at this speed? Oh, ok, we'll say "For adding dry ingredients - Folding". Crank it up a bit more, "bwAAAA", Speed 2! Ah, what do you think? OK, it'll be "Blending Ingredients - Muffins - Quick Breads". And so on.
This kind of continuous throttling reminds me of aircraft engines, and I wonder if there is any connection.
Mini Maple Cakes
Time: 45 minutes
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Vermont maple syrup, Grade B
1 and 1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur unbleached flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup hot water
1. Heat your oven to 350F. Prepare 3 or 4 individual cake pans by buttering and dusting with flour.
2. Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until well-mixed. Break in the egg and continue beating until very pale and light (Speed 8 on a Sunbeam Mixmaster!).
3. Drizzle in the maple syrup while beating, and keep at it until you have a smooth mixture.
4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Incorporate this in three steps, alternating with the hot water, and mixing briefly after each addition.
5. Toss in the chopped walnuts and fold in with a spatula, to avoid over-working the batter.
6. Distribute the batter in your prepared pans, filling to about 2/3 of the way up the sides.
7. Bang the pans sharply 3 times on the countertop to settle the batter into the features of the pan. Then put in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and passing the toothpick test. The larger the pan, the longer it will take to bake the cakes.
8. Cool on rack. Then make the glaze: In a small mixer bowl, combine 1 cup confectioners' sugar, 1 teaspoon of corn syrup, 3 tablespoons of maple syrup, and 1 tablespoon water. When mixed and lump-free, it is ready to use immediately.
9. Put a couple of spoonfuls of glaze atop each slightly-warm cake. It will ooze down the sides a bit; this is desirable.
Enjoy slightly warm, or store in the fridge. These are also great for breakfast the next day .... Sue